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ESTHER CHOSEN QUEEN.
“ Sar. I speak of woman's love.
The very first
"In youth women are our idols, at a riper age our companions, in old age our nurses, and in all ages our friends."
We have learned something of Persia, past and present—as it was, has been and now is—so far as such brief historical items were thought to be conducive to the proper understanding of the Book of Esther and our better acquaintance with the condition of the Hebrews at the time of the Advent; and we have made a visit to Susa, and been introduced to the king Ahasuerus, and have contemplated his empire and his capital—the extent, riches and glory of his vast dominions, and were an invited guest with the princes of his
one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India even unto Ethiopia, at the feast which he
for dred and four score days, to show “the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honor of his excellent majesty.” And then we visited the queen, feasting with her women in the apartments of the royal house that belonged to king Ahasuerus, and we saw how she received the king's command to appear before him “with the crown royal, to show the people and the princes her beauty." We have heard her haughty and firm refusal, and how the king was very angry, and how his cabinet advised her immediate divorce, and how it was done, and the king and all the sages of Persia and Media decreed, by a royal commandment that could not be altered, and how it was written and sent into every province and to every people, after their own language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that all wives throughout all the empire shall give to their husbands honor, both to great and small.
In these transactions there are some things commendable and some things very
to be blamed. It must have been a terrible mortification to the great king Ahasuerus at such a time, when he was showing his riches and the power of Persia and Media to his princes and servants, to be obliged to submit to such disobedience in his queen.
"Is this the man of a thousand thrones?” What a pity that he who governed millions of men and reigned supreme over so vast an empire could not govern himself! His weakness is seen in his excessive indulgence in wine and in his vanity, and in giving such a command at such a time. As a king and as a husband, it was his honor and his duty to be
THE KING'S WEAKNESS.
a covering of the eyes to his wife, and not an exposer of her modesty. Gen. xx: 16. But in his seeking advice of his wise men there is something commendable. Despot as he was, he desired everything to be done according to law. The king, though excited with wine and exceedingly angry, and all-powerful, would not have anything done contrary to the usages and constitution of his empire. Absalom's folly is seen in the choice of his counsellors, and Napoleon's greatness of genius is seen in the fact that he could hear all his cabinet had to say, and gather up all the varied information they had to give, and then act independently upon his own judgment and without hesitation. As a general rule, it is true that the greater the power the greater the need of advice lest it be abused, and yet the greater the danger, and the need of true courage to give it.
Though we have admired the beauty, dignity and courage of queen Vashti, we have not been able to excuse her disobedience, as most interpreters have done. The record does not authorize us to find that her obedience would have been a sin against God, and therefore we cannot justify it. Her divorce, however, was hasty, cruel, and contrary to the will of God and to good morals. Nor is it long till the king has leisure to repent of what he had done in wicked haste. When the wrath of ihe king was appcased he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her. And no doubt now he would have been glad to receive her back again as his wife; but his counsellors knew very well if this was done it would cost them their heads; therefore, they said, “Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king, and let the maiden that
pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti." "And the thing pleased the king, and he did so." Esther ii: 1, 4.
In the advice here given to the king we recognize the voice of the minister Memucan. You remember his plea for divorcing Vashti was that it was necessary in order that wives should be made to honor their husbands. The object proposed was a good one. Every man's house should be his castle, and every man should be lord of his own castle, and his wife and children should be in subjection to him. Good order in families undoubtedly lies at the foundation of a well regulated state. But husbands should be careful not to give unreasonable commands. They ought not to verge on ground that is in itself sinful to occupy. Nothing is more revolting to a refined mind than family quarrels or domestic bickerings. Domineering on the part of either husband or wife, is contrary to true refinement and to the spirit of christianity, and to the express words of the apostles. The consequences of such insubordination are well stated by Memucan. “If," says he, “wives despise their husbands, whom they ought to reverence, and contend for dominion over them whom they ought to obey, then there will be nothing but insubordination and strife, and the higher in society the case may be, that is an example, the greater will its influence be.” Though this statesman-courtier had a very difficult and dangerous post to fill—that of interfering between a man and his wife, and of helping his Sovereign to forget his sorrow for abusing one queen by taking another, yet he seems to have had courage and skill quite sufficient for his difficult task. His
advice was highly politic. The plan he proposed, while it would serve to ingratiate himself into the king's favor, by counselling him to follow his own humor in having a wife, it would gratify him also in relieving his grief for the loss of the old queen by the charms of å
Courtier-like, he was careful to be on the winning side.
His incense was to the rising sun, not to the setting. Memucan would have been a fit counsellor for Henry the Eighth. Josephus, however, thinks well of him, and pronounces him an honest man,
and sincerely desirous of promoting the public good by securing the ends of justice, which, as a politician in such a court, was not an easy work. Josephus also says that Ahasuerus was sincerely attached to Vashti, and would most gladly have forgiven this offense, if he could have done so according to law, or consistently with his dignity as the king of so great an empire. And no doubt Memucan seeing this disposition in the king, was the more urgent for immediate mcasures to get a qucen instead of Vasliti, for her return to favor would of course imply his ruin.
The measure proposed to the king for obtaining a qucen instead of Vashti, is substantially the same that is used for replenishing the Ilarem or scraglio, to this day. The most beautiful throughout the land are bought or selected for the Harem, without regard to nationality, or any question as to the condition of their birth, whether high or low, free or slaves.
In the East the regulation of the harcms cf princes and rich men are substantially the same everywhere, and have been but little, if at all changed since the days of Solomon. Even the restriction of the Koran,